So what does it really mean to "pay it forward"? Make a difference. Tell two friends, so they tell two friends. Do unto others as you would have them do to you, as written in the Bible. However, without provocation we are often caught up in our everyday worlds and unless a gentle reminder comes our way, we retreat and forget about it.
Not so is the story for our son Paul and Tom Daly, Curator of Education for the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. During the summer of 2008, while Paul was a student at the College Internship Program in Lee, Massachusetts, he participated in their Vocational Program. It was a time of living and learning for Paul as well as those who had no knowledge about autism. While the last five years have penetrated the news and media outlets about autism, many employers had no point of reference or guide for supporting those on the spectrum. Internships were also very hard to find, however the Norman Rockwell was willing to give him the opportunity.
While Paul's job at the Rockwell lasted two short months, a lifetime friendship was inspired. The years have passed and even though they live in different states,Tom has kept in touch with Paul and commended him on his accomplishments.
Recently, a group of seniors, called the Lifetime Learners were planning a lecture event at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut. The president of the group was interested in taking a trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum, but given that it was winter, the idea of traveling was problematic. I recommended that he call Tom Daly and ask if the "lecture" might travel to them. In the spirit of paying it forward, Tom Daly did just that. He traveled to Connecticut, and then he called Paul and asked him to travel as well and assist in the presentation. Both friends reconvened nearly five years later and worked together to deliver a stellar exhibition on the brilliance of Norman Rockwell. Paul guided the slide show, as Tom spoke. It was perfect.
Tom's plethora of knowledge on Rockwell is awesome. He shares the finite stories that pertain to each painting, and draws his listeners into the charge that motivated Norman Rockwell. Every painting, from The Four Freedoms to Do Unto Others are vivid portraits of history. The Lifetime Learners are now planning a trip to the museum. And for this mother, another kind of history was nourished. The art of paying it forward, in true Rockwell tradition. My son who has autism, contributed to a magical afternoon.
Nancy Reagan's gave a gift in 1985 on behalf of the United States to the United Nations. It was a mosaic created in honor of the UN's 40th anniversary. It is based on a painting by the American artist Norman Rockwell called the Golden Rule. Rockwell wanted to illustrate how the Golden Rule was a common theme of all the major religions of the world, and depicted people of every race, creed and color with dignity and respect. The mosaic contains the inscription "Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You". It was executed by Venetian artists specializing in mosaic works.
World Autism Awareness Day is soon to mark its sixth anniversary on April 13,2013. What better way to honor individuals living with autism. Tell a friend. Pay it forward.
Call on President Obama and Congress to develop and implement a comprehensive national plan to address autism. Vote now and make a difference.